How to make bad software? Just hire too many people!

The most impressive thing about Microsoft is that they manage to just about hold on to their marketshare while never leaving the bad headlines. Here is just one recent example. Just goes to demonstrate the old adage, “it doesn’t matter what they write about you, only how many column inches you get”. I’d had a suspicion for a while that Microsoft goes for quantity over quality of coders, and there was a comment somewhere recently saying that Microsoft was the only company recruiting by interview rather than code review (and they use those idiosyncratic questions including how to get A, B, C and D across the bridge fastest, or how to figure out which of three switches turns the light on). Microsoft has over 71,000 employees, which of course does include sales and marketing people, but still. Apple has about 18,000 full time employees. Yahoo has 11,000 and Google 10,000. I see a pattern. (BTW, since I wrote about Adobe recently, they have about 5,900.) You can look up those figures on Wikipedia.

The big hint that Steve really means it

A lot of the discussion about what Steve Jobs should really do, and whether he is being genuine or just passing the buck in an attempt to placate Norwegian consumer protection, has ignored the fact that he gave away important information that most consumers would have been unaware of:

While we have had a few breaches in FairPlay, we have been able to successfully repair them through updating the iTunes store software, the iTunes jukebox software and software in the iPods themselves.

I have a feeling he could have made his point without giving away this much detail; he could, for instance, have referred to “our software” and left us in doubt; but no, he deliberately shared the fact that if we refuse to upgrade our iTunes and the iPod firmware, we can ultimately avoid the DRM treadmill. Food for thought?

Keywords: DRM, digital rights management, iTunes, iTunes Store

Origins of the iPhone

Daring Fireball has a heavy critique of a supposed industry insider’s allegation that the iPhone is based on a Philips concept from 1998. The “insider”, who back in his day did the trick of imitating IT consultancy industry leader Gartner (then Gartner Group) like everybody else at the time and founding a … Group company, compares the iPhone to the LG Prada (an insight earlier spotted elsewhere on the web), but he also misses – as does Mr. Fireball – the fact that the Philips concept could just as easily be seen to be broadly based on Apple’s Knowledge Navigator, a concept from 1987 (note the year) in its use of a fold-up screen and avatars. The link between the Knowledge Navigator and iPhone has been made elsewhere (see comments).

Analysis: OS X on ordinary PCs? hmmmaybe…

I’m coming round to this idea. Fred Davis made the point that upgrading to Vista isn’t going to be fun for people, so if OS X were available, they might jump for it. Fred Davis also hinted that he believed (I’m not that well versed in early PC history) that Microsoft wouldn’t have created Windows if Apple had opened up Mac OS for the PC. The problem back then was that Apple was keeping Microsoft’s applications in a cage. It’s also undeniable that putting OS X on PCs would open up a considerable market for iLife, iWork and Aperture (any other applications out there that might appeal to folks that are not already using them?) Furthermore, Microsoft have put themselves in a corner by creating an office incarnation that is so different from previous versions that people are going to be hesitant to switch to it. (The folks over at OpenOffice.org are rubbing their hands already.) There’s probably never been an easier time to defect, especially given that XP OEM licenses are quite cheap and available with Macs from independent vendors, allowing you to run any Windows app you might need via Parallels Desktop (get this – an XP OEM license plus Parallels Desktop still come to less than a license for Vista). People have argued that Apple would need to provide an interface for drivers if they’re going to enter the PC market, where many devices are currently unsupported by Mac OS X. I don’t find that argument plausible, because Mac OS X if the current range of supported hardware is sufficient for one part of the userbase, it will be so for an extended userbase – and lessons could be learnt from the Linux kernel, where a more pluggable, yet secure interface for binary-only device drivers is currently in place.

The majority of Apple shareholders would probably be for a move into the PC market, but Steve’s persona would lose some credibility. It would be a tough decision for nobody but him… But that’s why he’s boss.